It can be argued that the Internet has had a significant impact on the education industry over the past fifteen to twenty years, to the point of being taken for granted by most institutions, teachers, and students around the world. Since being a novelty in the 1990s, the Internet is now ubiquitous in most schools and has been combined with distance learning modules, interactive classroom technology, and personal use apps. At the same time, however, the Internet has also made it easier for teachers to apply for jobs and participate in online communities.
In terms of the classroom, networked schools are able to combine access to the wider Internet with high-speed Intranets for sharing documents and data – secure Intranets mean that students can download work and submit their own. Classroom teaching has also been enhanced through the use of online primary sources, YouTube clips, and the potential to collaborate with other schools through video calls and conferences.
At the same time, students can use the Internet as part of their own research and homework – access to free databases and sites does create the risk of students over-relying on sites like Wikipedia, but also means that anyone wanting to widen their knowledge of a subject can do so with little effort. Free and paid smartphone and tablet apps have also made it much easier for students to revise and organize their studies.
The Internet era has gradually changed how schools teach ICT, with the emphasis has shifted in recent years towards more technical Computer Science and programming courses in the UK; these changes have moved ICT away from Powerpoints and charts towards encouraging students to work with microcomputers like the Raspberry Pi and Arduino, while also gaining programming skills as a way to boost their future employable skills.
Other changes have included the expansion of distance learning and free universities, with projects like iTunes University and Open University modules meaning that students without access to full-time education can still expand their learning. At the same time, online-only courses such as Udacity, and accredited courses from universities like Stanford in the United States have increased the number of people who have been able to improve their education.
For teachers, the range of options available within and outside of schools has been complemented by an online infrastructure for finding jobs and sharing information. For example, a recruitment specialist’s GSL Education’s site offers vacancies, forums, and opportunities for ICT support and staff training that makes it easier for prospective teachers to maintain their employability and find work.
In this context, the Internet has revolutionized the education system in many ways, making communication across schools and internationally much quicker – students are now growing up with the Internet as an everyday necessity, and are receiving more learning options than ever before. Of course, how well the Internet works for education depends on how it is shaped and made the most of, but with the ongoing potential to keep on expanding resources.
Author info: Albert Roberts is a secondary school teacher in Essex. He loves to blog about the different aspects of education in Britain and the challenges of inspiring young minds.